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Van CO2 tax on the cards

Date: 23 April 2007   |   Author:

Van CO2 deadline extended

The long-awaited arrival of emissions and economy testing on vans up to 3.5t could lead to a tax, VED and congestion charge system similar to the one that has revolutionised the company car industry.

From January 1 2008, all new commercial vehicles with gross vehicle weights of up to 3.5 tonnes will be subject to the same tests that new cars go through as part of the European type approval process, although existing models on sale now won't need to be retro-tested.

Though many in the industry have been calling for independent CO2 and mpg tests, there are worries about the validity of the new initiative, which will only test vehicles unladen.

"Because of the different payload potential, the figures aren't even going to be comparable from van to van," said Neil McIntee, editor of the UK's leading CV magazine What Van? "It makes sense for cars and is realistic, but the van figures won't mean anything. As usual they've gone off half-cocked and talked to the wrong people."

"There is no reason why vans cannot be tested on a level playing field by running them unladen and fully loaded to produce the best and worst case scenarios," said Mark Norman, values services manager at industry data expert Cap. "This would at least enable the end user to make comparisons between vehicles on the basis of their independently assessed vehicle impact."

As well as the criticism over the methodology, which several LCV manufacturers are also quietly concerned about, there are worries that an established CO2 figure, however accurate, could lead to a new method of taxing commercial vehicles.

"I wouldn't be at all surprised if Revenue & Customs or the DVLA look at a means by which they could base VED rates according to emissions levels," said Eddie Parker, CV manager at top five leasing firm Masterlease. "What concerns me slightly is that this could be the first step towards it being economically beneficial to drive on certain roads at certain times."

Despite the worries, the figures will still impact on buying decisions. "I think, as with cars, there will be certain fleets where eco concerns are of paramount importance. If they are high profile in an area that's environmentally sensitive there will always be interest," said Parker, who was also keen to point out that, as with cars, businesses shouldn't expect to see the claimed economy figures in the real world. "We'd hope astute operators understand that the engine probably wasn't fitted in the vehicle when it was tested, and it was in a perfectly humidified and temperature-controlled environment."